body as garden

your eternal energy as a renewable resource

Swami Radha in Montréal, 1956, courtesy Yasodhara Ashram

Did you ever look at your body as if it were a garden? If you would take a walk through this unusual garden, you would discover something most beautiful and interesting. A good gardener watches the plants’ growth quite regularly and with good intention, yet never interferes, instead trying to support when and where necessary. Relaxing in this way is most enjoyable and refreshing because you are walking through your body garden, getting a close look, putting attention where needed. And the body pays this kindness back manifold — in good health, strength and proper functioning.

Most people live in a hectic way, always rushing and racing. Yet what is accomplished does not match the price because this rushing is too demanding. The way of modern life has made us forget what life is really about. Have you ever asked what the purpose of your life is? Why you are here? What is the mysterious thing that we call mind? How does it function? And how does it function in relation to the body?

Body and mind are closely knit together. It may take time before the body reacts but when it does so in a disturbing way, it means there has already been a large amount of negative influences coming from the mind. False ideas, false images. They are like woodworms digging tiny little channels into the body. And when these are numerous and get away unchecked, the undermining activity brings a collapse in the physical — first, in those parts that are weak. The breakdown comes gradually but because we are unaware of the beginning, we may think it is sudden.

We may not realize how the restlessness of our thoughts and our emotions put the body under stress. When we are angry, we breathe in a shallow way. When we laugh, our breath is staccato. When we are in peace and harmony, beyond the opposites of pain and pleasure, our breath is even. The constant desire for pleasure in numerous ways needs to be brought under control. The energy and the life force can only be abused to a certain point, then the law of nature and the law of life close the door.

In the course of time, the influences of heat and cold, wind and rain make the hardest rock brittle. In the same way, the strongest health can break down if you don’t care for your body. Mental and emotional stresses work on the human body, breaking down resistance over the course of time. What might be just temporary tiredness from lack of sleep or late hours may also be interpreted by the mind as weak health and susceptibility, and this thought can be absorbed until it actually manifests. The undermining takes place slowly unless we do something about it.

We need periods of rest and quiet — time for ourselves to relax. In Savasana (the Corpse pose), we lie on the ground with all senses shut off. We can feel tension in our bodies, and we will also feel when we relax. First we die to the noise outside and then we hear the noise within our body, such as the blood singing in our ears or our heartbeat. To let the mind concentrate on the various parts of the body helps us to direct our thinking into these parts. But we need to relax the mind as well as the body. Can you relax your mind and still maintain awareness?

To learn to be quiet, to keep the body under control, helps us gradually to tune in with others. When we practise awareness in our daily lives and in our interactions with those around us, we can unlock the great creative forces within us.

When we are able to tune in by keeping our minds and our emotions quiet and under control, we become aware. We develop intuition. Within each of us there is an inner fountain that will overflow in the proportion to which we share. The greatest joy that we experience is the joy we share in the lives of others. Peace and harmony come to us when we bring peace and harmony to others. Who has not experienced an almost miraculous supply of energy when we are concerned for and helping someone else? And someday our practice will be rewarded with the experience of tuning in to that great force that gives life so abundantly.

In yoga, we wish to join our own consciousness with cosmic consciousness. There is no prescription for how to think about this energy, and it will reveal itself in the degree to which you approach and open up toward a new understanding. Remember, “I am not the body. I am not the mind. I am eternal energy, ever renewing, ever pure.” 

A pioneer in bringing yoga to the West, Swami Sivananda Radha is the author of 10 classic books on yoga, including Kundalini Yoga for the West and Hatha Yoga: The Hidden Language. Her teachings focus on developing awareness and quality in life.

  read more of swami radha's past columns

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